concerns about mark driscoll, mars hill church and the acts 29 network

note: i’d like to preface this by simply saying: i didn’t go out looking for problems. i read a blog post, and something felt wrong. so i kept reading. and the more i read, the more i saw that something was seriously wrong. at least, serious to me. i spent many years respecting mark driscoll as a bible teacher and a pastor. i respected his direct approach, and the fact that he seemed to have a view of christian masculinity that respected christian women while still being biblical. i defended the man. i enjoyed his series on song of solomon.

i didn’t go out looking for reasons to dislike him. i almost wish i’d never found them. then i would be able to go to an acts 29 church without reservation. it’s hard enough to find a church out there without eliminating a whole group of them as contenders in one fell swoop. 

but i did find this information. and i can’t ignore it.

the purpose of this post is simply to provide information and brief mention of why that information concerns me. it’s already a mile long without my in-depth thoughts on the matter. i may post more about my thoughts later.

at this point, if you are reading this, i’d just like you to check out these articles and see what you think for yourself.

so, lately a lot of stuff has come up about mark driscoll and mars hill church. stuff that really concerns me. stuff that i think is bad for the church. i think that the consequences could be devastating in a number of areas:

  • mark has a lot of visibility in the world and his work and ministry reflect Christ to the world.
  • it seems like there is potential for a lot of christians to be hurt by some of the things he is writing/saying or by his methods of ministry–either for those attending his church or those that attend churches pastored by men that look to him as an example.
  • there are over 400 acts 29 network churches across the united states,  plus more around the world.  acts 29 was led by mark driscoll and it’s current director is a staff pastor at mars hill church.  that’s 400 pastors in the US alone that are looking to mars hill for leadership. if there are big problems at the root (mars hill) of the tree (acts 29), then fruit of the tree (the acts 29 churches) is going to have big problems.

some of the things i’ve read really horrify me. the last two churches i’ve attended have been part of the acts29 network. God has done amazing things for me through acts29, but i’m concerned that membership in a group that is led by driscoll signifies approval of the man’s methods and message. for me, the things i’ve read in the last few weeks make it crystal clear that i can’t approve of his message or methods, most especially about leadership accountability.

a friend asked me to repost some articles that brought these issues to light for me and that’s the purpose of this post. i don’t want to argue with anyone or offend anyone. happy to discuss with respect for one another, though.

these are the original blog posts i read that raised concerns for me about driscoll’s latest book real marriage:

you can read the first chapter of real marriage online for free. on page 29 of the document in that link, you read this

“I have stood in line, where Grace has joined me when she was able, around the nation and the world, talking for hours with hundreds of thousands of couples.”

this might sound small to some of you reading this, but it jumped out at me and was a big deal. hundreds of thousands of couples. that’s a lot of couples. a LOT of couples. technically i would argue that hundreds of thousands is at least 200,000 thousand, but to give the benefit of the doubt, let’s say that mark only meant 100,000 couples. that’s still a LOT of couples.

i decided to do the math. mars hill church started in the spring of 1996. mark was not a pastor prior to this point, and has also said that he wasn’t even consistently involved in a church prior to starting mars hill. so, i don’t think he was doing this kind of talking with couples prior to 1996. giving the benefit of the doubt, let’s say the church is a full 16 years old. in order for him to have talked with 100,000 couples in 16 years, he would have had to talked with 6,250 couples a year. that’s 17 couples a day. every day. in a day with only 24 hours. for 16 solid years.

i’m sorry but that sounds like a lie to me. and such a stupid one. why tell it? who cares? you could have just said “thousands.” maybe it’s not a “big” lie. but it’s a lie. a deciet. and for what? it’s disconcerting to me. especially in a book that’s supposed to be written by authors being honest about their marriage.

the other day some serious issues came to light about church discipline as practiced at mars hill. andrew’s story is particularly sad. you can read part one of his story here and part two here. the graceless, unloving, manipulative response to his confessed sin horrifies me.

then i read some other stories about authoritarian leadership at mars hill:

together with andrew’s story, they have really raised red flags for me, not only about how church discipline is handled at mars hill but also about the noticeable absence of discussion about how the pastor and leadership are to be held accountable. who can give them church discipline contracts? who are they accountable to if there is unrepentant sin in their lives? who can rein them in if their leadership becomes ungodly, controlling and excessive?

and then i remembered the stories i read back in 2008, about 2 paid staff pastors leaving mars hill in late 2007. stories about concerns of consolidation of power, half truths told to the congretation and secrets kept from members.

there’s a lot more at that blog if you want to read it.

there are other links i could post. links in which i believe drisoll acts like a self-important bully who disrespects anyone that disagrees with or challenges him. links in which i believe he blatantly lies and is caught doing so! for now, i’ll leave that out since this is so long.

so, there’s your information. draw your own conclusions.

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8 thoughts on “concerns about mark driscoll, mars hill church and the acts 29 network

  1. Rachel, these are huge concerns, and I’m glad you’ve added your voice to the discussion. Guess it wouldn’t be such a big deal if MD wasn’t so immensely popular. Hope all is well with you. God bless you.

    • thanks, kevin. my heart is just broken over this. there are so many hurting people left in the wake of all this–people that Jesus died for that were treated like garbage. and the potential for future hurt takes my breath away. i look forward to the day when we are all together with Jesus, and we can’t hurt each other anymore.

      Jesus is with me and things are well. He’s continuing to work in my every day, and thankfully it’s all dependent on Him and not on me! hope you are well, brother.

  2. Hello Rachel,

    I am just curious about one thing… You said have read articles about Mr. Driscoll and I am just curious if you have heard any of his sermons? While I agree that he is sometimes blunt and in your face, as was Christ at times, he is biblically sound. He preaches in a raw way that people in this world need. He is blunt cause people need that today. I really urge you to actually listen to several sermons of his before making an over all decision about him. Esp. his sermon What is the Church.

    Just one Christian to another to another

    Christian (just happens to be my name as well lol)

    • christian, thanks for coming to the blog and leaving a comment. i’m happy to answer your question. i’ve actually listened to many of his sermons over the years. as i said in the beginning of this post, i even enjoyed his song of solomon series.

      his doctrinal positions are not what i am concerned about. i am concerned about a unloving, hurtful and bullying manner of dealing with people that disagree with him. i am concerned about the slandering of people that leave the church. i am horrified that a pastor would mislead his congregation in order to convince them to sever all ties with a former member of the church that dared to question him. (presumably so that the others wouldn’t get any ideas themselves!)

      i’m concerned about someone being in a leadership position that is such a man-pleaser, so arrogant and so ego-driven that he would LIE about something as stupid as having counseled “hundreds of thousands of couples.”

      now, i’ve addressed your concern that i listen to his teaching.

      i have a question of my own: did you actually read any of the articles i posted? how do you defend a lying “pastor?” how do you defend a “pastor” that demands unquestioning submission to his rule, even when no explanations are given? how do you defend a man that is so impressed with his own credentials as a bible teacher, but fails to put grace into practice for a member that confessed his sin?

    • 1 corintians 13:1-3

      Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.

  3. Hi Rachel,

    Thanks for your post and the links for people to check things out for themselves. I appreciate that you are concerned and fair. You are right, it is not so much a church leader’s credentials but how they treat or mistreat congregants that really matters. Being doctrinally correct, but demonstrating abusive behavior while in leadership, is a cause for alarm. Spiritual abuse is happening in all too many churches. Thanks for helping to Raise the Awareness about this issue in the church.

    You might be interrested in my doctoral research on this topic. It is now in a book entitled: Spiritual Abuse Recovery.

    My website is: http://www.ChurchExiters.com.

    All the best,
    Barb Orlowski, D.Min.

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